Too often organizations spend a lot of time, both in staff and board meetings, looking back at what they have accomplished. While this is important, spending time looking ahead helps organizations build the future that they desire. Planning strategically can provide an opportunity to plan a desired future.
Unfortunately, when strategic planning is mentioned to many people, you will see their eyes glaze over and looks of dread come across their face. For these people, strategic planning probably brings to mind many hours spent in useless planning that never gets used but is instead placed in a binder on a shelf. Few of us want to spend our valuable time engaging in activities that have no purpose or relevancy to our daily work; fortunately, strategic planning can be an exciting and motivating process to guide the future of the organization.
In years past, strategic plans were often developed and written to look at a future ten years out. Today, we all know that our world is changing rapidly and we probably have no concept of what our world will look like ten years from now. As a result, we generally recommend that organizations engage in strategic plans that look 1-3 years into the future.
To be adequately prepared for the strategic planning process, it will be helpful if the organization has conducted an in-depth organizational assessment that helps to identify strengths, weaknesses and challenges of the organization. I would also suggest that you have some key staff complete the assessment as well as board members and leadership. Doing so will provide you with a full view of the organization’s current position.
Now that you know the good, bad and ugly, you can begin to determine where the organization is going in the next 1-3 years. In other words, describe the ideal future, what do you want to be doing, who do you want to be serving and how do you want to be serving them. It is important to note that while some areas of the organization may change, not all will. While your “how” may change, your “why” should stay the same.
The whole point of spending time engaged in strategic planning is to determine how the gap between where the organization is today and where it wants to be in the future can be filled.
Strategic planning provides an opportunity for the organization to dream about the future and paint a picture that fulfills that vision.
Once the plan is developed, staff have the responsibility of using it to develop an operational or tactical plan that will enable the organization to move toward that vision.
Strategic planning works best as a process meaning that it doesn’t occur in just one meeting. Invest the time needed to collect and analyze data from all areas—financial, program, etc. Conduct surveys or interviews with stakeholders – clients, staff, and volunteers. Using an outside facilitator ensures that everyone is able to participate in the discussion and ensures that an objective approach is used to develop a plan for the future.
Thinking about strategic planning? Contact us today, we can help you develop your desired future.